Thursday, April 24, 2014

Preparing for Problogger (or any conference) - four months out

Anyone who follows my Facebook page will know that I was ultra-excited when I got a ticket for the next Problogger conference in late August this year. The Problogger event is "the" conference for people in my industry in Australia and I was lucky enough to attend Problogger for the first time last year; until then, the long trek to the other side of Australia had been too tricky to navigate with my small son. Now he's bigger and attending conferences is easier.

It is now just over four months until Problogger 2014 and first up, I have a confession to make: I actually had a post title in my editorial calendar called "Preparing for Problogger - five months out" but I'm obviously not as organised as I had hoped to be, and four months will have to be enough. This is in some ways a selfish post - it's a public to do list of what I want to or need to do to get ready for the ultimate Problogger experience - but I hope it also helps others (especially solo business mums like me) as they head to a conference, be it Problogger or something else.

The people of Problogger

Meeting Valerie Khoo
For me, meeting new people and catching up with people I've met before is the top reason to be at Problogger. (The stuff I'll learn rates a very a close second, but the people are #1.) Last year, I set myself a goal of speaking to three people: Darren Rowse (Problogger himself), Valerie Khoo (famous to me for so many reasons) and (even though she also lives in Perth) Kelly Exeter (of A Life Less Frantic and Swish Design and general all-round clever thing). I'm very pleased to say that I managed to meet all of them. I also met numerous great bloggers in person who I knew from Twitter and other places online and it was brilliant to see them in real life; plus I met people who were previously complete strangers but have now become online friends.

This year, I have planned to stay a little bit longer both sides of the conference (last year I was insanely nervous about leaving my son for the first time and kept my trip short) and hope to have some more in-depth catch-ups with some great fellow bloggers. I haven't yet made my "must meet" list (adding that to the to do list now) but it really helped to have that (kind of crazy) little goal last year. One of my major personal heroes will be there, Pat Flynn, and I would like to figure out how to have a normal conversation with him without me going all fan-girl crazy. (Although his keynote is all about creating "ridiculously supportive raving fans" so I guess I might just fit right in!)

The knowledge of Problogger

Oh, the learning, the learning. I was nearly overwhelmed by everything I learnt at last year's Problogger and my blogs are still living off some of the ideas for posts I generated during those two days. There are still items on my long-term to do list (like SEO stuff, for example) that I haven't yet done. One of the other reasons I'm going to stay a day longer is to get some of them done! Someone I met there was staying about three days longer and hadn't explicitly told anyone back home the length of the conference in the hope that nobody would disturb her and she'd have a few days to implement some of her new ideas. SO clever. If my Mr4 was a bit more self-sufficient I would do the same.

This year I plan to be a bit more strategic about my "knowledge gathering" and for a start, be a bit firmer about the choices I make for which sessions to go to. Last year I was so busy just trying to get there that I didn't really think this through ahead of time. If I know which sessions I'm attending I can think a bit more about what I plan to get out of it, set some mini-goals perhaps. I'm also in a different kind of place in regard to my business(es) this year compared to last year so it'll be quite different.

View from my Gold Coast apartment, nice ocean but so much under construction

The nuts and bolts of Problogger

Given that the conference is taking place on the opposite corner of the country, the logistics of getting there and being away from home for so long is no small feat. I never even wanted to return to the Gold Coast and was hoping it would be in a more accessible city like Melbourne again but I'm sure it's karma, because I blogged about how the Gold Coast didn't grab me and now I'm being forced back there to find its good side! Anyway, getting everything organised is not my favourite part but it is supremely necessary.

My personal pre-Problogger to do list

So much to do, and ... well, there may be four months to do it in, but I know this time will absolutely fly by. I reserve the right to add to this list as well as cross things off!

  1. Book my flights!
  2. Confirm accommodation arrangements.
  3. Figure out school pick-ups, drop-offs, etc etc for my son.
  4. Make a list of the three people I most want to meet. (I already know one of them will be Emma Grey of WorkLifeBliss as I have "known" her online for ages but never met her.)
  5. Figure out which sessions I want to attend and what I want to get out of them (they already have some details of the schedule online).
  6. Message/tweet/email/courier pigeon all the attendees I know (virtually or otherwise) and want to meet up with.
  7. Check if I have enough business cards.
  8. Gather some clothes that will work for the Gold Coast in late August.
  9. Block out time in my schedule for September/October to work on stuff arising from Problogger (a big downfall last year).
  10. Lose a few kilos in preparation for all those desserts and afternoon teas.

Are you going to be at Problogger? I know lots of people from Perth who are going this time - very exciting! Let me know if there's something else I should put on my list.
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